Brazil: Mission Agency Accused of Smuggling Jewels

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Allegations against a respected aviation ministry damage work among remote groups.

Brazilian federal police are investigating Asas do Socorro, a Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) affiliate based in Anapolis, Brazil. The investigation follows accusations that the organization has smuggled jewels out of Brazil.

A Brazilian government agency has ordered Asas to stop operating within the country, at least until police findings are analyzed. Asas’s 30 missionaries and five airplanes provide relief, transportation, and medical assistance to evangelical missions that work among Brazil’s native Indians. The organization had to ground its aircraft and silence radio communication between airstrips. Most evangelical missions operating in northern Brazil, including Wycliffe Bible Translators, New Tribes Mission, and Unevangelized Fields Mission, have felt the impact of the shutdown.

The events that led to the investigation began last year. In November 1984, Antonio Carlos Alves Calvares, a man with a police record, approached Mark Lewis, 25, the son of an MAF missionary. Calvares asked Lewis to work for him as a courier, transporting gems to private buyers in the United States. Lewis says he knew nothing of Calvares’s past. He told CHRISTIANITY TODAY that he refused the offer, however, because Calvares did not appear to be authorized to export gems. Two months later, Calvares contacted Lewis again.

“He said he had founded an exporting company and that everything would be done legally,” Lewis said. “He convinced me that his business was legitimate, so I agreed to work for him. I made several trips on commercial airliners between Brazil and the U.S. [with] the jewels in my luggage. On every trip I carried with me documents that I believed ...

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